In this paper, an attempt is being made to demonstrate clearly and with specific examples the main misconceptions about intelligence tests. The paper will firstly give brief definitions of key terms specifically intelligence and test. Secondly, it will account for the main misconception about intelligence tests with specific examples and finally a conclusion.
Kakkar (2005:82) define intelligence as the “extent of effectiveness with which a person deals with people, things and ideas, the effective integration of ones capacities and abilities to deal with one’s environment”. This definition clearly shows reflects that for a person to do something as expected he or she must be ready. This readiness must be disclosed in terms of maturation which develops as a result of biological processes. The manner in which a person handles things has a bearing to intelligence. For instance a person may be intelligent in mathematics but not in another subject like English. Another person may be intelligent in English but not in another subject like mathematics. Sometimes intelligence can also depend upon the environment in which a human being is found. A person tends to do well in things which he is exposed to since we acquire things from the environment. In other words, what is possible for one person may not be possible for another because of the different capacities to do them.
A test can be defined as an attempt to measure and determine the understanding of some individuals, how they perform to what extent they can go. Other scholars have further defined intelligence as an “ability to learn, the ability to carry on higher thoughts, especially abstract thinking and the ability to adapt to new situations”. Every human being is intelligent and what makes the difference between two individuals is the way we apply knowledge. Intelligence is inherited from parents but for them to develop, they need proper environment. Witting, etal (1984) define intelligence as “the ability to choose between items, the capacities to acquire, manipulate and apply knowledge”. The way we apply knowledge, reason and handle situation depicts intelligence. For example, if a person is able to carry out abstract thinking necessary for advancement of the society, he is classified as an intelligent person. A person who has the ability to adjust to new environment after a learning experience is said to be intelligent.
Intelligence therefore is inherited from parents but they need proper environment to develop them and bring them to function. As human beings, the kind of personality one becomes depends very much on the home he or she is born into, on his parents, on the village he lives in, on his school and on the tribe or nation to which he belongs. To this effect a person is a product of his heredity and also of his environment. In order to develop intelligence, the level of intelligence needs to be measured and determined.
Determination of intelligence is done through what is known as an intelligent test.
William and Wingo (1962:278) explain that “intelligence tests are psychologically established, respected and practiced in schools, industries and military organizations”. The definition helps us to understand that these intelligent tests play an important role in our daily lives. They help us to choose what we want to became because they serve a purpose in our lives. If one passes these intelligent tests very well, this can determine what one can do in life. Intelligence tests are used in various ways such as grading of pupils in respective classes, add-mission to colleges and also superior intelligent, maladjustment of educational and social nature. Not only are intelligence test used in the ways shown, but they also determine readiness to read, calculate some mathematical problem, determine the level of development and determine placement of subject-mater materials. For example if a pupil fails mathematics during his grad nine exams, he can not be allocated class where additional mathematics is being offered.
Although these intelligence tests are used to access the level of a learner, there are several misconceptions and superstitions that are attached to them. People have developed wrong concepts with regard to how the intelligent tests must be used, what they do and what they measure.
There are so many misconceptions about intelligence tests. One of these misconceptions about intelligence tests is that aptitude or intelligence tests measure native ability. Native ability means something that is fixed and is immutable inside the human beings. It also means some construct quality of something that is born in individual and that determined how well one does on test and ought to do in school and colleges. William and Wingo (1962:280) states that “the native ability may be reasonable but we should not suppose that only tests of mental ability measures the construct in any meaningful way”. For example, this test measures the pupil’s performance on a number of tasks and reveals how well the child can cope with tasks like those on the test at the time the child takes the test. However, the misconception here is that the score obtained by the learner in an intelligence test tells us nothing about the particular native ability of an individual child. As a result of this we can say that test items are invariable of some sort such that a child learns them in order to perform them. All in all aptitude test do not measure some fixed entity that a child was born with. To qualify this statement, we can say ability is not a construct entity but a quality of his behavior with respect to a set of tasks controlling him at the moment of writing the test. In other words, intelligence tests do not measure construct but helps to arrive at it through the measurement of behavior.
Another misconception is that students with high ability scores and low marks in schools are under achievers. Under-achievers are those not working up to capacity. High scores suggest that some pupils do better at school but he or she is not doing it using the God-given nature. This simply means that what students get in aptitude tests and those in schools differ because schools vary and teachers also vary in their demand on pupils. Approach to teaching differs from teacher to teacher and also school administrations differ from school to school. The pupils also vary in their perception of things. Therefore, this typical example is a misconception about intelligent test. The psychologists who construct and administer intelligent tests are called psychometricians.
The diagnosis that the child with high ability score but obtains low mark in school simply shows that he is unmotivated or lazy. It is to have high in an intelligence test and not in school. The problem may be in the teacher and the way he/she delivers his lesson to pupils. It could be methods of teaching. The unmotivated pupil will not work to the expected standard and the intelligence test a low marks in school would not match. Therefore, an individual can not be graded as an underachiever. This example is another misconception about intelligence test.
Thirdly, the cultural aspect of the individuals may also influence the result of the tests. What this means is that the tests must be cultural free in order to access an individual accordingly. If the test is affected by culture in which the individual has been born, brought up and lives, then no truthful results will be obtained. It is quiet difficult to satisfy this demand as children are surrounded by the environment which forms part of their culture. These tests should never be taken as concerned learners. The language of the learner, way of dressing are all part of his culture. The issue of cultural aspect influencing learners and intelligent tests another subjective misconception about the tests.
The fourth misconception about intelligence tests is that scores they yield should be absolutely accurately measure what they intend to measure. This assertion may not be true that whatever the test aims at measuring will be exactly measured. This is because the intelligent quotation (I.Q) of children changes with time, just like the chronological age (C.A) change. Therefore, tests student can take the IQ of 100 this year so it may be wrong to assume that the IQ of this student will be at 100 the following year. Results might be different because the IQ may rise to 120.
Another example on the fourth misconception is that even when the child takes the two tests on the same day, the child will not get the same marks. In this case, we can say that test results are not fixed. They are wobbly results, results which are shipperly, with little or no realization of their state. Serious judgmental issues as such lead to serious judgmental errors which can damage the education of a child.
The firth misconception about intelligence tests is that they are used to predict how well the student is likely to do in school or college. This prediction may not be true because you may predict a pupil to get A+ in English but the same pupil may end up with a B. it is uncertain to expect a student to do something which he might not do because the performance can be affected by the new environment and experiences he has gone through.
The last but not least misconception is that intelligence tests ascertain a person to have a larger amount of ability. This is not true because a person may have a large amount of ability only in a particular are and not in other areas. This implies that he may do well in calculations but he may have problems in spellings. Mental tasks which involve words, meanings form one cluster in an individual and those others to deal with numbers and their manipulations form another cluster. It would not be accurate to rank a student as having lager ability on the basis of a single intelligence test. One needs to go through a number of tests, based on a wider spectrum of his being in order to ascertain the abilities.
The mentioned misconceptions about intelligence test give us a picture of what it is to use the intelligence tests. Although they play a major role in the formation of classes or identification of those with potential, we should not entirely rely on them. This is because they can create a gap and misinform us about an individual. We should bear in mind that a person who scores low marks in an intelligence test is not an underachiever but he can do better than ever before.
1. Kakkar, S.B. (2005). Educational Psychology. New Delhi : Prentice-Hall of India
2. William, C.M. and Wingo, G.M. (1962). Psychology and Teaching. (2nd Ed.)
Chicago : SCOH, Foresman and Company.
3. Witting, A.F. and Williams, G.iii. (1984). Psychology an Introduction. New
York : Mo Graw-Hill Book Company.
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